Being a Learner, Not a Knower

One way to navigate life is by trying to control everything that happens “out there” –exactly what’s going to happen, exactly when the detailed plans I have imagined in my mind will fall neatly into place, and exactly what others will say and do along with how they say and do it.  I don’t know about you, but trying to force life into a neat and tidy box hasn’t worked out so well for me.  My only guarantee is loads of frustration trying to control what is ultimately not mine to control.  Along the tireless path of attempting to predict all the answers and direct others, my ability to effectively and creatively respond in the moment diminishes, my sense of connection to others dissolves, and my appreciation for the mystery of life declines. 

Time to Wake Up!  Rather than doing the same thing over and over and wearing myself out, I started to explore some different questions.  How could I embody a more fluid response to life’s inevitable twists and turns?  What if I learned to focus on what’s fully in my control --my own actions – and let what’s out of my control go?  What if I began to approach life as a learner and not a knower? 

"In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s
mind there are few."  -–Shunryu Suzuki

With that clear intention in mind, I began to cultivate curiosity and comfort with not knowing.  Here’s what I’ve learned…


The fact of the matter is, I never really know how another human is going to react or respond to my words and actions.  None of us do.  The way that other people view themselves, others and the world is completely and uniquely based on their own life experiences.  Similarly, my perspective on life is uniquely my own.  It’s the richness and understanding of that diversity of thought that creates magic.  Intellectually, I know this.  But when it comes to matters of the ego, I still find myself hustling to please or conform, hungry for others to agree with me, which is my emotional reinforcement that I’m liked and “enough”.  When I’m focused on doing and saying what I believe the other person wants or needs to hear and I'm playing it safe (hungry for approval), I find myself holding back from taking a stand for what I believe in.  The impact is resentment and frustration that leads to exactly what I am trying to avoid – a fractured relationship with myself and the other person. 

In those situations, I’ve learned that this SUPERMOVE can change the dynamic in a heartbeat.  

When I find my center, check in with myself about what I believe in and courageously speak my truth, the dynamic shifts.  Embracing VULNERABILITY and rising above fear is the fertile ground where my leadership capacity takes fight.  Bringing my authentic self forward - having real conversations and making real connections invites others to bring their best selves forward.  From this place, a powerful future can be generated.


Sometimes it feels like the world is just out to get me.  An unexpected setback in a dream, a breakdown in a coveted relationship, a risk I took that “Failed”. Then I wake up from those limiting thoughts and with a little lightheartedness and humility, I realize that maybe it’s not raining on me – it’s simply raining!  Life happens and I get to choose how I want to either react in a habitual way or free myself to skillfully respond with a fresh perspective and clear intention. Life can be my biggest teacher if only I am open to accept, learn and grow.

"Choosing our response – our attitude – to any situation is the only true
freedom we possess."  --Viktor Frankl


Some very wise words to live by - “Grit is the raw endurance, perseverance and passion that keeps you going despite obstacles.”  

This statement reminds me to become a student of reality.  My hopes, dreams and plans are essential to keep me motivated and moving on a positive path forward.  Life is full of possibility.


Inevitably, I bump up against unexpected events in life and get hi-jacked by old survival habits, even if they aren’t that skillful.  I can get caught in the habitual frenzy of work, losing my sense of balance and composure.  I get promoted or demoted (admittedly, both have happened), and find myself unsettled, unable to find my footing. Or I’ve even reached the peak of my professional success, only to find that I am still unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

Bringing grit is about learning to meet whatever arises – either a pleasant or unpleasant experience – with grace and gravitas.  It is only by staying with it that I can learn to move beyond it.


My mind often tells me that I need to be in rapid fire mode -know the answers, get it all done and along the way, don’t make any mistakes!   By blindly putting my head down and going fast to simply “check the box”, not only do I inflict suffering on myself but I also miss out on the ordinary moments that create an extraordinary life…

Wholeheartedly connecting with another human being…savoring the sunshine as it lights up the beauty all around me…embracing the possibility that #lovealwayswins…these are just a few of the indelible impressions life has to offer if only I am awake and open to receive.

Those memorable life experiences are most visible when I first SLOW DOWN to go fast!

“Wisely, and slow.  They stumble that run fast.”  --William Shakespeare



I have a question.  How often do you notice that little voice in your head saying things like, “You’re not good enough”, “Don’t say that, you’ll look stupid” or "How dare you believe you are ready for that promotion?”


The more I explore this curiosity, the more I realize that I’m not swimming upstream.  It seems that most of us have some version of an internal safety director whose primary responsibility is to keep us from taking risks, exposing ourselves emotionally and from being fully seen.

With practice, I am learning to sit quietly and listen deeper. In the stillness, I am beginning to find movement.  The faint whisper of a different voice inside me can be heard.  That is the voice of my Inner Champion.  It speaks the language of kindness, perspective, and possibility.  I’m now working on giving that voice the lead role in my life’s autobiography.

“Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love.”  --Lao Tzu